ⓘ The Dark Tower (2017 film)
The Dark Tower is a 2017 American dark fantasy western film directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel. An adaptation and continuation of Stephen Kings novel series of the same name, the film stars Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, a gunslinger on a quest to protect the Dark Tower - a mythical structure which supports all realities - while Matthew McConaughey plays his nemesis, Walter Padick and Tom Taylor stars as Jake Chambers, a boy who becomes Rolands apprentice. Intended as the first installment in a multimedia franchise, the film combines various elements from the eight-novel series, and takes place in both modern-day New York City and in Mid-World, Rolands Old West-style parallel universe. The film also serves as a sequel to the novels, which concluded with the revelation that Rolands quest is a cyclical time loop; the presence of the Horn of Eld, which Roland received at the end of the series and carries in the film, indicates that its events occur in the next cycle.
The production of the film was complex and difficult, as production began ten years before the release of the film. Efforts to adapt The Dark Tower series for the screen started in 2007, with periodic reports and official announcements. The project was then shelved before the rights were transitioned to a different production company. Development experienced starts and stops with various filmmakers and studios at different times, including Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, and Lionsgate Entertainment. The adaptation went through three major phases of planning: with J. J. Abrams from 2007 to 2009, Ron Howard from 2010 to 2015, and finally, the current iteration, announced in March 2015, produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Media Rights Capital, with Arcel directing and Howard remaining in a producing role.
The Dark Tower premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on July 31, 2017 and was theatrically released in the United States by Columbia Pictures on August 4, 2017. The film grossed $113 million worldwide on a $66 million budget and received generally negative reviews, with critics calling it "a dull disappointment without any set audience: incomprehensible to newbies and wildly unfaithful and simplistic to fans of Kings books," though Elbas performance earned praise.
11-year-old Jake Chambers Tom Taylor experiences visions involving a Man in Black who seeks to destroy a Tower and bring ruin to the Universe while a Gunslinger opposes him. Jakes visions are dismissed by his mother, stepfather, and psychiatrists as nightmares resulting from the trauma of his fathers death the previous year.
At his apartment home in New York City, a group of workers from an alleged psychiatric facility offer to rehabilitate Jake; recognizing them from his visions as monsters wearing human skin, he flees from them, and they give chase. Jake finds an abandoned house from one of his visions where he discovers a high-tech portal that leads to a post-apocalyptic place called Mid-World.
In Mid-World, Jake encounters the last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain Idris Elba, who has emerged in his visions. Roland is pursuing Walter Padick, the Man in Black Matthew McConaughey who has also appeared in Jakes dreams. Roland pursues the Man in Black across a desert, seeking to kill him as revenge for the murder of his father, Steven, and all remaining Gunslingers. He explains to Jake that over decades Walter has been abducting psychic children, attempting to use their "shine" to bring down the Dark Tower, a fabled structure located at the center of the Universe. This will allow beings from the darkness outside to invade and destroy reality.
Roland takes Jake to a village to have his visions interpreted by a seer. Having learned of Jakes escape, Walter investigates and discovers from his minion Sayre that Jake has "pure Shine", enough psychic potential to destroy the Tower single-handedly. He kills Jakes stepfather; then he interrogates Jakes mother about her sons visions and kills her.
Back in Mid-World, the seer determines that the machine is six months away on foot and portal access is restricted to Walters bases. Jake realizes that Walter has a base in New York that they can use to reach the machine. Suddenly, the Taheen Walters minions attack the village – but Roland systematically kills each of them. Roland and Jake return to Earth where Rolands injuries are treated at a hospital. Jake learns the location of Walters base from a homeless man who helped him earlier. When Jake returns home to check in on his mother, he finds her charred remains and breaks down in tears. Seeing this, Roland angrily vows to kill Walter. He comforts Jake by teaching him the basics of gun fighting, as well as the Gunslingers Creed, which he hasnt uttered since his own fathers death.
As Roland replenishes his weapons supply at a gun store, he is attacked by Walter, who captures Jake and takes him through a portal at his base to a machine that will destroy the Tower with Jakes powers. Jake uses these psychic powers to alert Roland to the portal code he needs and Roland battles his way through Walters henchmen, reopening the portal, which Jake forces to stay open. Walter is forced to return to New York to fight Roland and wounds him. When Jake reminds him of the Gunslingers Creed, Roland recovers and kills Walter with a trick shot after a brief fight. Finally he destroys the machine and saves the Tower, Jake, and the other children.
Roland prepares to return to his own world and offers Jake a place by his side as his companion. Jake accepts the offer, as he has nowhere else to go, and the two head back to Mid-World together.
- Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers, a young boy whom Roland must call upon to complete his journey, and a son-like figure to Deschain. Taylor won the role after an international search.
- Jose Zuñiga as Dr. Hotchkiss
- Matthew McConaughey as Walter Padick, a ruthless ageless deceiver and sorcerer who seeks to reach the Tower and rule over its seemingly infinite kingdoms. On the choice of McConaughey, Arcel stated, "Matthew is an incredible actor who can do anything. Thats how I feel about he becomes a character who isnt just a mirage that Roland is chasing. The way things are set up, hes right there."
- Dennis Haysbert as Steven, Rolands father
- Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, the last of the Gunslingers. On the choice of Elba, director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel stated, "For me, it just clicked. Hes such a formidable man." He added that he had been an admirer of Elbas since The Wire, and stated, "I had to go to Idris and tell him my vision for the entire journey with Roland and the ka-tet. We discussed, who is this character? Whats he about? Whats his quest? Whats his psychology? We tried to figure out if we saw the same guy. And we absolutely had all the same ideas and thoughts. He had a unique vision for who Roland would be." Stephen King himself spoke highly of Elba, stating: "I love it. I think hes a terrific actor, one of the best working in the business now." On the character of Roland, King noted: "For me the character is still the character. Its almost a Sergio Leone character, like the Man with No Name," while remarking, "He can be white or black, it makes no difference to me. I think it opens all kind of exciting possibilities for the backstory."
- Fran Kranz as Pimli, one of Walters Taheen technicians
- Nicholas Hamilton as Lucas Hanson
- Eva Kaminsky as Jill, the fake clinic representative, sent by Walter to retrieve Jake
- Abbey Lee as Tirana, another of Walters Taheen technicians.
- Jackie Earle Haley as Sayre, a Taheen
- Michael Barbieri as Timmy, Jakes neighbour
- Claudia Kim as Arra, a seer
- Katheryn Winnick as Laurie, Jakes mother
3.1. Production J. J. Abrams 2007–2009
By early February 2007, a film adaptation of The Dark Tower series was in the works. J. J. Abrams, co-creator of the television series Lost, was said to be attached to produce and direct. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who co-created Lost with Abrams, optioned The Dark Tower from King for a reported amount of $19, a number that mysteriously recurs throughout the series. According to issue #923 of Entertainment Weekly, King "is an ardent supporter of ", including the fact that Netflix might be an outlet. Later, in October 2011, Howard confirmed the adaptation is still on track, noting that HBO would now carry the television portion of the project.
By March 2012, Warner Bros. was expressing interested in taking on the project. Several months later, Goldsman delivered a new script for the first film to Warner Bros., and the studio had to make a decision in August 2012 whether to go ahead with the project. As well, Russell Crowe was being talked about as the lead character. On August 20, 2012, Warner Bros. officially passed. At the same time, Media Rights Capital MRC was in talks to take over the project from Warner.
In January 2014, Aaron Paul stated that he had a conversation with Howard and was possibly being considered to play Eddie Dean. Following that, a rumor appeared that Liam Neeson was interested in the part of Roland.
3.2. Production Nikolaj Arcel, Media Rights Capital and Sony Pictures 2015–2017
On April 10, 2015, it was announced that Sony Pictures Entertainment with MRC were fast-tracking the project, now with a completely reworked script by Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. King appeared optimistic, saying: "Im excited that The Dark Tower is finally going to appear on the screen." Howard appeared to be out as director, but would remain in a producing capacity. By June 2, 2015, Sony was looking to Nikolaj Arcel to direct. Arcel officially signed on July 10, 2015, with him and Anders Thomas Jensen rewriting the script. On August 5, 2015, Sony Pictures Entertainment set the film for a release of January 13, 2017. By November 2015, Matthew McConaughey had been offered the role of the Man in Black also known as Randall Flagg from The Stand, another role McConaughey had been offered in an upcoming adaptation. In January 2016, it was officially announced that Idris Elba has been cast to play Roland Deschain. By February 18, 2016, Abbey Lee had been offered the role of Tirana. On March 1, 2016, Entertainment Weekly confirmed the casting of Idris Elba as Roland and Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black, with shooting set to begin in South Africa in April. On March 5, Sony announced that the film would move back on the schedule from January 13 to February 17. By March 10, 2016, Tom Taylor had been cast as Jake Chambers.
3.3. Production Filming and post-production
Filming began on April 12, 2016. Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley, and Fran Kranz were added to the cast when filming commenced, while Katheryn Winnick and Michael Barbieri joined the film at the end of April 2016, and Claudia Kim was cast as Arra Champignon in May 2016. After poor initial test screenings, Sony contemplated replacing Arcel with "a more experienced filmmaker," but instead producers Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman advised Arcel on cleaning up the music and narrative of the film.
Originally, the film was scheduled to be released on January 13, 2017 and was pushed back from its original release date of January 13, 2017 to February 17, 2017. In November 2016, the film was pushed back again from February 17, 2017 to July 28, 2017, after the studios Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was moved from that date. In late March 2017, the film was pushed back one week from July 28, 2017 to August 4, 2017, switching places with Sony Pictures Animations The Emoji Movie.
4.1. Release Promotion
An unfinished rough cut of the first trailer was leaked online on October 10, 2016 but was later taken down almost all over the internet. On May 3, 2017, a full length trailer was released.
A one-minute television spot titled Connected KINGdom featured Easter eggs of other Stephen King stories through the inter-dimensional setting of the titular location, the Dark Tower. Various references included The Shining 1980, Christine 1983, Cujo 1983, Misery 1990, The Shawshank Redemption 1994, Carrie and It.
5.1. Reception Box office
The Dark Tower grossed $50.7 million in the United States and Canada and $62.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $113.2 million.
In North America, The Dark Tower was released alongside the opening of Kidnap, as well as the wide expansion of Detroit, and was projected to gross around $20 million from 3.451 theaters in its opening weekend. It made $1.8 million from Thursday previews at 2.770 theaters, with screenings beginning at 7:19 p.m. as an ode to the 19:19 of Stephen King lore present in the book series, and $7.7 million on its first day. The film went on to debut to $19.5 million, dethroning two-time defender Dunkirk as the top film at the box office, although it was the second lowest gross for a film to finish number one in all of 2017. In its second weekend the film dropped 58.9% to $7.9 million, finishing 4th at the box office.
5.2. Reception Critical response
Critics panned The Dark Tower, calling it "boring and flavorless" and "incomprehensible to newbies and wildly unfaithful and simplistic to fans of Kings books." On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 16% based on 262 reviews with an average rating of 4.1/10. The websites critical consensus reads, "Go then, there are other Stephen King adaptations than these." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 34 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported that filmgoers gave a 69% overall positive score and a 43% "definite recommend".
TheWrap s Dan Callahan was critical of the films sloppiness and poor editing by saying, "The 95-minute culmination of years-long efforts to bring The Dark Tower to the big screen is a complete disaster, a limp, barely coherent shell of a movie." Mike Ryan of Uproxx also criticized the incoherent plot, writing:
Eric Vespe of Aint It Cool News praised Elbas performance, but said the actor was let down by the decision to make Roland a supporting character: "That puts us in a weird position because Elbas a good Roland in a movie that doesnt allow him to actually embody the character in any meaningful way. Hes undercut at every turn. The strongest stuff in the film is when Roland and Jake are bonding, but that relationship is so accelerated that theres no room for an arc."
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club maintained that the film was:
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described the film as a "major misfire" and an "unholy mess that shouldnt happen to a King, much less a paying customer". Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper panned the film, criticizing its cinematography, special effects and dialogue, referring it as "dull", "mediocre" and "stilted" while calling Matthew McConaugheys performance as the lead villain "terrible" and calling it one of "the films unfortunate elements".
Conversely, Aja Romano of Vox wrote that the films disjointed narrative structure, favouring fast-paced action over exposition and backstory gave it a "basic, wondrous glee" that made it "feel more like a Stephen King film than any other Stephen King film since Stand By Me ", and applauded its faithfulness to Kings fictional multiverse, an idea ignored by most adaptations of Kings books.
In an interview with Vulture, King stated that the films critical and commercial underperformance was due to its compression of the source material, and the decision to make the film for a PG-13 rating by toning down the violence of the novels. However, he also defended the film, claiming that screenwriter Goldsman "did a terrific job in taking a central part of the book and turning it into what I thought was a pretty good movie".
In an appearance on Josh Horowitzs podcast Happy Sad Confused promoting his film Pavarotti, Howard admitted to being dissatisfied with The Dark Tower. Believing that the film was not faithful to its source material due to lacking the novels horror elements and by presenting the story as a "boys own adventure" with Jake as the protagonist instead of Roland, he elaborated that "We always felt like we were kind of holding back something, and I think at the end of the day it was that". Explaining that these deviations from the books were "a sense of maybe too much listening to what you think the marketplace is calling for instead of really the essence of what Stephen King was giving us", Howard also expressed that the adaptation might have been more successful had it been made as a television series rather than a film.
6.1. Franchise Television series
In September 2016, The Dark Tower television series was scheduled to be released in 2018, with Glen Mazzara as showrunner. Elba and Taylor were set to reprise their roles as Roland and Jake respectively. The series was intended to provide the backstory of the film, being based on Kings The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole and elements of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, with another actor playing young Roland, and Haysbert attached to return as Steven Deschain. Mazzara said that the series would explore "how Walter became the Man in Black, and how their rivalry cost Roland everything and everyone he ever loved", though McConaughey did not initially sign on for the series.
While discussing the development of the series in the aftermath of the films release, King expressed "well see what happens with that. It would be like a complete reboot, so well just have to see". In February 2018, Amazon bought the rights to the series adaptation, though it was not made clear at first if Elba, Taylor or McConaughey would be involved. It was later confirmed that the series would serve as a reboot with Sam Strike and Jasper Paakkonen being cast as Roland Deschain and The Man in Black respectively. In January 2020, Amazon decided not to move forward with the pilot, but production company MRC is shopping the pilot scripts elsewhere.
6.2. Franchise Sequel
In an interview with Collider, King expressed hope for a sequel film in addition to the television series by suggesting that it should be R-rated, have Roland wearing a hat and include the "lobstrosities" from The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three. In an interview with ComingSoon.net, Arcel confirmed that The Drawing of the Three would form the basis for the sequel, and that Eddie and Susannah would appear alongside Elba, McConaughey, Taylor and Haley reprising their roles as Roland, Walter, Jake and Sayre respectively.